I don’t think there’s any other music festival that dedicates itself to music in the way that Sonar Festival does. Founded in 1994 by a music journalist and two musicians and visuals artists, they’ve since ensured that innovation, community, communication and technology stand at the forefront of the festival. The festival presents a multitude of different artists, all of who are pioneers in the field and come wanting to showcase their own vision. If you’re an artist serious about your work and you’re invited to play Sonar, I’d say you truly know you’ve made it and you’re certainly finding yourself in the right circles – its both an honour and a privilege to play such a festival that combines creativity and technology. There’s nothing flashy or superfluous about Sonar or its location; particularly at Sonar by Day, everything is geared towards experiencing the music in a new realm, there’s no distractions, no in-your-face advertising, no gimmicks- almost everything is in its right place, fulfilling a purpose. Here, NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION lists up the highs and lows of this world-class festival.
Seen: MØ, NILS FRAHM, DESPACIO, TRENTEMØLLER, PLASTIKMAN, FOREST SWORDS, BONOBO, ONEOTHRIX POINT NEVER, JON HOPKINS, THEO PARRISH, WOODKID, MODERAT, PRETTY LIGHTS, CARIBOU, TODD TERJE, 2MANYDJS, FOUR TET, MAJICAL CLOUDZ, WHOMADEWHO, JAMES HOLDEN, MASSIVE ATTACK, CHIC, MATTHEW DEAR, JAMES MURPHY, LAUREL HALO, RUDIMENTAL, DAPHNI b2b JAMES HOLDEN, TIGA
What Sonar Excelled At: Sonically and visually, Sonar festival is a pioneer in its field. The festival presented a stellar line-up of today’s most prominent artists who are at the forefront of electronica. Sonar is truly on the pulse of the current electronic music landscape and the sound and visual installations are quite unprecedented. The backdrops and light strobes were of the highest quality with stand-out visuals presented by PRETTY LIGHTS, MASSIVE ATTACK (their infamous political propaganda backdrops), NILS FRAHM and ONEOTHRIX POINT NEVER. A further impressive trait of the festival was that the acts all started perfectly on time – there wasn’t one muck-up in the schedule, no one dropped out, no delays – what’s that about infamous Spanish mañana mañana?
What Sonar Failed At: Unfortunately, there were too many clashes within the program, meaning you had to compromise one act’s performance for the other. If you attempted to catch two clashing performances it resulted in you missing the start and end of both acts and meant you weren’t ever fully engulfed in either one’s performance. This contributed to the lack of emotional attachment one felt with the artist: it was at times rather impersonal and there was no real connection between the audience and the performer. In addition, the sets themselves were generally too short and didn’t do the artist’s work justice. Also, for some absurd reason the volume at SonarPub seem to decrease with every new act. And lastly, due to the fact that SonarComplex was an indoor hall with seating, it resulted in a queue forming outside and in effect you always missed the start of a show (due to above mentioned scheduling problems) – standing in line is one thing that certainly shouldn’t be part of anyone’s festival experience.
Above And Beyond: What elevates Sonar above any other festival is undoubtedly its dedication to music. From its phenomenal line-up, to its avant-garde sound and visual capacities as well as all the components that combine music, communication and technology, Sonar brings people together in ways rarely seen at festivals. What should also be noted is the way Sonar treats its Press and Pro attendees.
VIP Treatment: I’ve never been to a festival that treats its Press and Pro attendees so well. From separate accreditation entrances and busses to free cloakrooms, coffee, water and reduced beer prices and a number of Press-Only areas, Sonar truly caters for a VIP experience for those in the industry. At Sonar by Night, there’s an outdoor area with tables and chairs as well as a fenced-off area to enjoy the Sonar_Club stage away from the masses. This however, brings me on to my next point…
Necessary Improvements: For regular ticket holders, there’s no place to chill-out or withdraw from the sounds and sights at Sonar By Night which can make you go a bit gaga. Although the Sonar by Night venue is massive, the way the stages are positioned, you can often be hit by four different sounds at once.
Crowd: Predominately Spanish and a large amount of people from the UK, a few from Germany and France. Very friendly and open crowd, certainly, very blatant drug use. In addition, the crowd was more mature and more sophisticated than at many other festivals; it’s certainly a meeting point for serious electronic music lovers from all over Europe.
Experienced: A Festival of Firsts:
DESPACIO – 2MANYDJS and JAMES MURPHY
DAPHNI b2b JAMES HOLDEN
Musical Highlights: PRETTY LIGHTS, CARIBOU, DESPACIO – All three acts filled me with a euphoria I can barely put into words. Be it the music, the visuals, the atmosphere, the surrounding substances, the company- who knows, but it was fucking phenomenal.
Musical Disappointments: MASSIVE ATTACK – To be perfectly frank, this performance was boring. It didn’t grab me in the slightest, I was constantly left waiting for something, anything to happen and there was no connection with the group whatsoever. I saw them at Melt! Festival in 2010 and it was one of the best live shows I’d ever seen, but here at Sonar it didn’t do much for me. Even Teardrop and Unfinished Symphathy failed to impress. Having said that, their visual exploration of political propaganda and its statements critiquing society and technology were, as always, fucking ace.
Party Starter: PRETTY LIGHTS (see point above the point above)
Arrogant Bastard Award: WOODKID. I can’t even be bothered to waste my breathe on this guy – if you were there, I hope you know what I mean, if you weren’t, I encourage you to stick to listening to the record at home.
Most Emotional: MAJICAL CLOUDZ. I don’t think there’s any band that I have more of an emotional connection to than this Canadian performance duo. Tying my stomach in knots and pulling on my heartstrings, this is music at its most sincere and serene.
Overall Day-by-Day Impression:
Thursday: Sonar By Day let us into this fascinating new world, slowly but surely.
Friday: Sonically: a whirlwind of highs, mind: positively, ecstatically, emotionally blown.
Saturday: Sonically and emotionally sound although on the tamer side with an added bit of confusion.
Festival Track: Can’t Do Without You, CARIBOU